Courses

*FRSEMR 62Y. Back to the Future: How the Past Imagined the Cities of Tomorrow

What will the cities of tomorrow be like? How did people in the past imagine our cities would be like? Our ability to foretell the future, it turns out, has a mostly poor record so far. And yet, predictions, visions and expectations can teach us a lot about how people make sense of their world. Since the 1800s we have seen a boom in urbanization, as well as in utopian and dystopian depictions of cities. In fact, we can think of modernity in terms of competing views about the future. Throughout the 20th century, for example, many envisioned flying vehicles. Some vied for segregated cities, others for diverse communities. Today, with climate change, labor precarity, and the effects of the coronavirus pandemic setting in, it often seems as if a dire destiny is inevitable. To some, it is as if the future, not the past, is already fixed. Others invite us to make radical changes. Most tend to assume that the future will be very different from the past. But some cultures think differently, and we will also consider alternative conceptions of time. As we reflect on our current moment, we will investigate multiple urban visions in design, literature and film, asking: How do expectations about the future shape the present? How did unrealized projects impact the built environment? Can fiction and the arts stretch the limits of the thinkable? How might futures imagined in the past help to address our urban and environmental challenges?

Professor: 

Season: 

Fall

Days: 

Th

Time: 

3:00-5:00pm

Course ID: 

213247

Subject Area: 

Freshman Seminars

Research Areas: 

  • [Course titles in brackets] indicate that the course is not scheduled to be taught during the 2020-2021 academic year, but may be offered in an alternate year.
  • An asterisk (*) before a course number indicates that a student must obtain the instructor's permission in order to enroll in the course.

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Center for the Environment

Address: 26 Oxford Street, 4th Floor, Cambridge
Email: huce@environment.harvard.edu
Phone: (617) 495-0368

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